Thousands of people will march against racism and fascism this Sunday in east London.
The march was organised in defence of the Muslim community. The racist English Defence League (EDL) had said it would invade Tower Hamlets to disrupt an Islamic conference.
The threat by the EDL produced unity and anger—and this scared the racists. The EDL was forced to abandon its plans.
“It would be a suicide mission if we walked into east London,” EDL leader Tommy Robinson told the East London Advertiser.
“The Met Police told us there would be a hostile scene with thousands of protesters coming from all over if we turned up.”
But the anti-racist demonstration called by Unite Against Fascism (UAF) and United East End will go ahead.
Over 800 people packed into the London Muslim Centre, east London, last Sunday.
Muslims, Christians, Jews, Buddhists and Sikhs sat side by side with socialists, trade unionists, and LGBT anti-fascist campaigners.
Tower Hamlets is a multicultural borough with one of the highest concentrations of Muslim people in Britain.
“If they can march here,” said Glyn Robbins, one of the organisers, “then they can march anywhere. We have to oppose them.”
The message from speaker after speaker was for unity against the EDL.
Weyman Bennett, joint secretary of UAF, told the rally, “When we are met with racism and fascism we come out together to confront it. These people will not tell us how to live our lives.”
The warden from East London Central synagogue said, “I am as opposed to Islamophobia as I am to antisemitism,” getting rousing applause.
Musaddiq Ahmed, secretary general of the Tower Hamlets Council of Mosques, remembered Blair Peach, Altab Ali and other activists who lost their lives because of racism and fascism.
Alex Kenny, a member of the NUT teachers’ union executive, brought greetings from the 2,000 NUT members working in Tower Hamlets and said that teachers would stand with their students on Sunday.
Steve Hart, the regional secretary of the Unite trade union, spoke about the Tower Hamlets tradition of opposing racism and fascism.
This includes the Battle of Cable Street in 1936, when anti-fascists beat back the Blackshirts—the British Nazis.
Labour councillor Lutfur Rahman said, “I grew up here and remember the fear of the skinheads who called us ‘Pakis’. We cannot go back to that time.”
Speakers condemned the decision by Tower Hamlets council to pressure a venue into cancelling the Islamic conference the EDL had opposed.
It was wrong to get it called off. The council describes both the EDL and the group of Muslim academics holding the conference as “extremists”.
But the two cannot be equated. It is the EDL—and Islamophobia—which are the danger.
The march on Sunday will be a huge boost to anti-racism. But it can go further.
The movement that has sprung up in a few weeks can become part of a broader movement to resists attacks on jobs, wages and conditions.
Everyone who can should be in Tower Hamlets on Sunday.
Demonstrate: Sunday 20 June, assemble 12.30pm, Stepney Green Park, London E1 for march to Altab Ali Park, Whitechapel.
March begins with speakers and music. Love Music Hate Racism has confirmed the following bands: Trojan Sound System, Lowkey and Jerry Dammers. Go to www.uaf.org.uk